How Much Should An Engagement Ring Cost? (Hint: The Old Rule Is Outdated)

How Much Should An Engagement Ring Cost

How much should an engagement ring cost? Yep, there's a saying about that. You've probably heard your father or grandfather reciting/complaining about that bit of old family lore. But does the long-held guideline actually hold anymore? Read on — when you find out where it came from, you might wonder why it's lasted as long as it has.

How Much Should an Engagement Ring Cost?

The two-to-three-month-salary rule

This is the old-school rule your father or grandfather likely told/warned you about: Essentially, that you should be prepared to spend two or three months' salary on an engagement ring. For example, if you take home $4,000 a month, you should spend $8,000 to $12,000 a month on an engagement ring; if you take home $10,000 a month, you should feel obligated to spend $20,000 to $30,000.

The Problem With That

For starters: Back in your grandfather's day, you could work a part-time job and still afford to pay rent on a one-bedroom New York City apartment; college tuition cost 75 percent to 90 percent less than it does now at the best universities; health-care costs were a fraction of what they are now; and the biggest “experiences” you planned for as a couple were the reception and kids.

In other words, the men who adopted and popularized the two-month-salary rule had fewer expenses and different priorities.

And did you know who started the whole thing? The advertising agency of the company who sold the most diamonds in the 1930s. To reboot its business during the Great Depression, the British diamond company De Beers popularized a one-month rule in an ad campaign. It was highly effective: Before the 1930s, only 10 percent of engagement rings contained diamonds; by the end of the century, 80 percent did, and the one-month rule had grown to two or three. It was “one of the most successful bits of marketing ever undertaken,” T.C. Melewar, professor of marketing and strategy at Middlesex University, told the BBC.

man about to put engagement ring

Breaking Up with Tradition: Engagement Ring Cost & Budgeting Today

More and more couples are breaking with tradition. Your situation is unique, and your ring should reflect the life you've created together, not an arbitrary rule. (Read more about how to buy an engagement ring on a budget here.)

Maybe you have other goals for your life together — a new house, paying off student loans, or saving for kids at the same time. Maybe, like a growing number of new couples, you've seen the research on the effect of experiences vs. material things, and you're spending a greater percentage of your budget on opportunities like travel or mutually enjoyable hobbies. With that said, engagement ring budgeting is so much more different now than two or three generations ago.

Shopping together for an engagement ring

Engagement ring shopping has become a more mutual experience than ever before: More and more couples are shopping for the ring together, and even splitting the cost. “Being there every step of the way helped me understand the magnitude of what really goes into a proposal,” wrote Rachel Torgerson of Cosmopolitan about co-buying her engagement ring with her fiancé. “Saving up enough money to buy a ring, comparison shopping, deciding if size or quality has more value, signing that check — it's a lot to think through. I got to go through that same process, with all the same gut checks, highs and lows. It was truly incredible to see it through in a gradual and very intentional way.”

Browsing engagement rings online together can be a bonding experience for a couple — and with With Clarity's beautiful selection of hand-crafted, ethically sourced engagement rings, along with free shipping and returns, replica home preview and lifetime warranty, it can set the stage for a lifetime of smart decisions you make together.

man putting engagement ring on hand

Beauty on a Budget: Engagement Ring Tips

There are ways to maximize your ring even if you're working on a tight budget.

First, shop online. A brick-and-mortar jewelry store can mark up the price of a diamond by 50 percent or more, to cover their overhead. Because With Clarity is an online jeweler founded with close relationships to diamond sources, we pass those savings on to you.

Second: Consider purchasing a preset diamond engagement ring. Preset diamond rings offer a more affordable option that also saves time. With a preset ring, you are saving the time and cost of a jeweler having to set the ring themselves.

Third: Check out our expert advice on making your diamond dollar stretch further. For example, you could follow in Lady Gaga's and Meghan Markle's recent footsteps and add a trendy sapphire to your engagement ring; go for a three-stone ring; and explore either or both options in a halo engagement ring style, which makes any diamond seem bigger.

Fourth: Explore the option of purchasing a lab grown diamond versus a natural diamond. Lab grown diamonds are chemically identical to naturally occurring diamonds, the only difference being that they were created in a lab. This allows consumers to have a more affordable diamond option. Read more about lab created diamonds in our article: Mined Diamond Alternatives.

Fifth: There has been a recent spike in popularity in the use of moissanite in engagement rings. This beautiful stone offers a great alternative for those looking for a more affordable option.

With Clarity's expert gemologists can help you find the right ring for your life together. They're exceptionally experienced at working with each couple's priorities and budget — contact us now so they can help find the best ring for you.

Benefits of Lab Grown Diamonds

Besides the obvious advantage of lab grown diamonds being more environmentally friendly with a guilt-free composition, they also come at a fraction of the cost that natural diamonds are available at. That's what we call a win-win. They are identical to their naturally grown counterparts. Like they say, same same but different. Lab grown diamonds are more affordable, which means you get a bigger piece for the same budget and are more environmentally friendly as they require no mining whatsoever. So you as well as the environment can shine on.

Benefits of Preset Rings

Now that you have decided to pop the question, we can ensure that you find the perfect piece and have it to you quickly and fuss-free. With our preset rings, you can dazzle her in about 12 days if you need it urgently and cannot wait to customize the perfect ring with us. It's as easy as what you see is what you get and takes the stress out of decision-making. You can rest assured that you are buying a great piece that is super trendy.

How to Maximize Your Budget

It is fairly easy to maximize your budget while shopping for an engagement ring without settling for the look or feel of the ring.

We recommend opting for shapes that are less popular, they are also more unique and more seen on celebrities. Go ahead and buy a G color so that you not only have a colorless diamond but also spend a decent amount to get her the perfect engagement ring that you both have dreamt of. Fluorescence isn't necessarily a bad thing as it is a naturally occurring property - it is barely visible to the naked eye so don't worry too much about it.

Round figures aren't always a good thing. Feel free to buy just under a full carat and save on the moolah while your diamond looks and shines just the same. What we mean by this is that you can buy a 1.90-carat diamond instead of a 2.00-carat diamond and still bring a smile to her face. Another way to maximize your budget is to stay true to the classic design and try to avoid adding side stones to increase the bling. One stone will shine just fine!

Matching the Ring to a Wedding Band

Matching the wedding band to the engagement ring is a beautiful way to express your own style. Plan a little ahead and think of how you want the two rings to look once they are stacked on your finger.

For every engagement ring, we offer a matching wedding band on-site, so matching on With Clarity is as easy as 1-2-3. We can match the diamond accents on the engagement ring to that on the wedding band if you do choose to have any sparkle at all. You can either search by Engagement ring name if you have that handy or search by the SKU stock number to view matching wedding rings. Our team of gemologists is also available to offer any assistance you may need while looking for the perfect match. Not only women's wedding bands, but we also offer wedding bands for him. Because after all, matches are made here too.

You could either stick to the metal type of engagement ring or get creative and pick another metal to offer a more modern look. White gold with Yellow gold, Yellow gold with rose gold, the options are limited to your mind and personal preference.

Once you have decided on the look and metal, it is advisable to think of the type of wedding band that you would want. Will it be a plain band? Will it be a diamond studding wedding band? Some couples like the wedding band to completely stack up against the engagement ring while some prefer it to make a statement on its own. A classic wedding band would be great if there is no gap wanted between the two rings. Eternity, channel set or plain, the choice again is yours. Just speak to our gemologists and they can advise if a ring will sit flush against your chosen wedding band. Another point to keep in mind is the width of the two rings. It would be great to match that too. Because at no point would you want one ring to overshadow the other.

In terms of your budget, the metal type and size of the accent diamonds will determine the final cost of the wedding ring. Generally, accent diamonds are matched to the size of the accent diamonds on the engagement ring, so you can expect the wedding band to be the approximate cost of the engagement ring minus the center diamond.

While trying to match the wedding ring and the engagement ring, there really is no fixed rule. Whether traditional or unique, the right way to showcase and wear your love is up to you. And, we are here to help. We can also customize rings according to your preferences. Just ask! Each ring comes with a lifetime warranty and with a certificate card that takes the stress out of shopping. We even offer free resizing up to 30 days after purchase and have a team engrave a special message inside the band to remind her of the special day, complimentary, of course.


How much should an engagement ring cost?

To summarize, an engagement ring should be within a budget that’s comfortable for you and your partner. Throw out the 3 months salary rule and choose a number that helps you to stay in line with your life and wedding planning goals. Think through the elements that are most important to you whether that’s a higher quality diamond or a custom ring design and work from there to determine a budget.

Who traditionally pays for the engagement ring?

In most scenarios, engagement rings are purchased by the partner gifting it. However, in a growing number of scenarios, the wearer is contributing not only their opinions but also contributing towards the budget of the engagement ring, so speak with your partner if you’re discussing finances and engagement ring shopping.

How much of your salary should an engagement ring cost be?

This one is totally up to you. It’s really determined by your savings and expenses. The average engagement ring cost in the USA is around $5,000. However, if you’re looking for something that’s less expensive, you can get a lab diamond or work with a less expensive metal like 10kt gold. Nevertheless, be sure to prioritize her likes and tastes when choosing an engagement ring.

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